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CHESTER, PA (11/27/2017)-- Widener University recently partnered with the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia for a program that examined the intersection of free speech and civil discourse. A group of 16 undergraduate student volunteers took on leadership roles that helped make the event a success.

"The First Amendment: Finding Common Ground in a Polarized World" featured a panel discussion between Widener President Dr. Julie E. Wollman and Delaware Law School Dean Rodney Smolla with Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, as moderator.

Their discussion, encompassing everything from free speech on college campuses to historical perspectives of the First Amendment, was followed by student-led breakout sessions. The sessions allowed audience members to share their thoughts about finding common ground through an innovative approach that emphasizes understanding, empathy, and advocacy - all through a framework of civility. Students who led the small-group sessions underwent special training exercises with political science faculty members in the weeks leading up to the event, where they developed skills needed for leading discussions on difficult topics.

At the event, each student led a table discussion with roughly a dozen students, faculty, staff and alumni. The student facilitators included:

Hunter Romach of Haddonfield, NJ, 08033. Romach is a student in Widener's College of Arts & Sciences.

The event was part of the university's Common Ground Initiative. It demonstrated how Widener University is leading the way in modeling civil debate and the pursuit of common ground. It aligned with the platform principle "We're All Widener" which Wollman has highlighted at the university to exemplify Widener's commitment to respect, mutual understanding and unity. The words symbolize a fabric of the university's culture, which includes a commitment to treating others' perspectives and opinions with respect. At Widener, people value the opportunity to share different thoughts and experiences in an effort to find common ground.

Widener is grateful for the students' leadership contributions at the event, and all the preparation they did to help make it a success.

A short video highlight of the day is available here.

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener comprises seven schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees. Visit the university website, http://www.widener.edu/

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